Cawthon, Elisabeth A.

Job Accidents and the Law in England's Early Railway Age Origins of Employer Liability and Workmen's Compensation
1997 0-7734-8735-2
This research chronicles the actions of coroners' courts in the 1830's and 40's, in order to illustrate the competition and, quite literally, the bargaining which could occur in a legal arena when a divisive set of forces changed English workplaces. This study argues that the strictness of judge-made and legislated law toward occupational accident victims may be understood within two contexts from that time: lawmakers' anger at the actions of "medical" coroners - notably Thomas Wakley of Middlesex - and their resentment of the actions of coroners' courts. Chapters 1-3 discuss information revealed about particular workplaces, and their changing nature. When coroners' courts heard occupational accident cases, they discussed many topics which are currently of interest to social historians, such as the structure of households, the status of children and domestic servants, the allocation of power within the workplace, the degree of mechanization, the provision of medical care in local communities, availability of self-insurance, the running of workhouses, and the staffing of hospitals and teaching of doctors. Beyond providing information about legal responses to social change, this study also emphasizes that alternative visions of the law of occupational accidents did exist, in complex and contentious form, in the years prior to 1846. The study occupies new ground in discussing the mechanics of the important shift away from the principle of "letting the master answer" for accidents, to the harsher mid-century principles such as the fellow-servant rule.